Sunday, October 07, 2007

MMP and the MSM

Just exactly what is it about the above chart that's so fucking difficult to understand?
The first line is the percentage of votes for each party.
The second line is the number of seats awarded them by our current First-Past-the-Post system.
The third line is how those votes would have been redistributed as seats under MMP.

That's it. Under MMP, Canada would join the hundreds of other countries in the world who already enjoy proportional representation in which every vote counts and seats are won on the basis of how people vote.

So why does a recent SES poll of Ontario voters, who are due to vote on this for Ontario on Wednesday, show only 26% support for MMP, compared to the 54% in favour of keeping the First-Past-the-Post status quo?

The Mainly Sloppy Media has a lot to answer for here and G&M's Ian Coutts tops the lot. First he takes a swipe at the legitimacy of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, who, incidentally, voted 98 to 6 in favour of MMP :
"Numbering 103 people in total, one from every riding in the province, they were drawn from many walks of life, not experts but ordinary people - just like the ordinary people who voted for Brian Melo over Jaydee Bixby on Canadian Idol this year."
Then he goes on to argue that Someone might form the Annoy Your Neighbour Party, win a seat, and become kingmakers; but even worse, once people realized their vote would actually count, tragically more of them would vote. I'm not kidding :

"And you know what? Once people see that their vote makes a difference, that their party can get in and make changes, they will come flocking back to the electoral arena."

In an earlier column, he contradicts this, arguing that the claim that MMP results in a higher voter turnout - and it does - isn't true after all anyway. Just look at New Zealand, he says, where voter turnout actually went down :

"In 1995, the first election after MMP was brought in, voter turnout was sharply up, from 79.6 % in 1993 to 83.6%, but it has generally continued declining after that, and was at 80.1% in 2005."
Only 80% ???

Note that wiggly line across the top of the graph.
You have to go all the way back to 1896 to find Canadian voter turnout as low as it is now - 64%

The main reasons people give for not voting are that politicians are crooks and liars who don't address their concerns, and their vote doesn't make a difference anyway.

Or, as Rick Mercer puts it : the two reasons elected politicians don't do what they promised to do during their election campaigns are :
1) you already voted for them .....and
2) you already voted for them

Most likely to feel this way are women, youth, and minorities - all of whom are under-represented in the current provincial and federal FPtP systems.

In the 2006 federal election, the Cons got 36% of the 64% who voted.
What's 36% of 64%? ... 23%
We're being governed by the guys who got 23% of the possible vote and who apparently feel justified in behaving as if this was a majority.
In Ontario, winning 40% of the vote means the winner takes all. This increases the importance of a handful of swing vote ridings so they are the ones catered to during an election. In a very real sense, aside from those who live in those particular ridings, no one else's vote counts.

In my inbox is a pro-MMP petition signed by Stephen Lewis, Linda McQuaig, Bob Rae, David Suzuki, Olivia Chow, Stompin' Tom Connors, Andrew Coyne, Elizabeth May, Mel Hurtig, Joy Kogawa, Rafe Mair, Judy Rebick, and Rick Salutin.

On the other side are the guys who are quite happy to have a minority hog an unfair proportion of political clout.

Your choice, Ontario. Don't screw this up.

Bonus : Electoral system pop quiz


West End Bob said...

Thanks for a clear presentation of MMP, Alison. Current polls don't look good for Ontario leading the way on this, correct? What is it that people don't understand?

Boggles the mind . . . .

Q said...

It's ironic in the age of instant information, not enough will have this simple idea explained to them in time.

Q life observation #4, people both hate the status quo and fear change needed to correct it.
Lazziness? No wonder we love cats.

Dave said...

Great post, Alison! And a nice takedown of that twit Coutts.

Anonymous said...

Michael Enright had a couple of people talking about various aspects of proportional representation on his CBC radio show. One thing they agreed on is that you get many more women elected. Sounds good to me.

D said...

Ontario should have had this MMP referendum forty years ago when voter turnouts were higher and citizen participation in community associations and the political process was higher.

MMP would pass in this referendum if citizens would do their duty and learn about the options presented to them.

Apathy will kill the MMP referendum because many people have the impression that FPTP isn't broken, so why fix it? These people are not going out and getting educated (despite dozens, maybe hundreds, of posts in the blogosphere informing the public of their options) and taking the question seriously.

MMP will not reach the 60% mark because 60% of voters probably do not know about the advantages/disadvantages of both MMP or FPTP. At the polling station they'll reflect upon what they are immediately about to do, cast a vote, and feel that the current system is doing everything that they want them to do. There's no Q&A sheet in the polling booth - just a chance to change the way the country's largest population will be represented and subsequently put pressure on the federal government in future years to do the same.

But I don't have the confidence that the average voter will have that kind of foresight. It's not just they're fault it's the fault of the collective society and the direction we're going in right now. It is just to bad that our democracy has to suffer in the process.

thwap said...

Actually, the anti-MMP folks keep going on about the threat to democracy of MPPs chosen from party-lists, who don't support a particular locality, but who are merely craven puppets to the "political elites."

As opposed to the backbenchers we have now.

Then, there's the infantile argument that 'more politicians = more money' and that we simply can't afford the relatively miniscule amounts that the extra MPPs will cost.

And then there was the drivel about how minority governments are more expensive, because opposition parties can "extort" things like the programs that Canadians want, in return for their support.

There should have been a year or two given to this.

That, or Bob Rae should have done something about it when he had a majority. The snowball got his chance in hell, and decided not to rockt the boat too much.

What a sap.

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